Telomeres are located at the outermost ends of all eukaryotic chromosomes and provide for the maintenance of genomic stability and integrity during the life span of organisms. The length of telomeres shortens due to each round of DNA replication, genotoxic insults, and/or reactive oxygen species. To counteract this shortening, certain types of cells, including stem cells, male/female germline cells, granulosa cells, early embryos, and most cancerous cells, express an enzyme known as telomerase, which has the potential of restoring the shortened telomeres. Presence of telomerase activity in the male germ cells ensures maintenance of telomere length at maximum levels during spermatogenesis despite telomere attrition due to DNA replication or other genotoxic factors. In this review, telomerase activity and telomere length in mammalian male germ cells during spermatogenesis are evaluated in detail based on the studies in this field. Also, the relationship between telomerase activity/telomere length and development of male infertility is comprehensively discussed.
Keywords: infertility; male germ cell; spermatogenesis; telomerase activity; telomeres.
© 2015 by the Society for the Study of Reproduction, Inc.